Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nine Lives: Part V: The Roller-Coaster Continuum

Strive: verb. to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; to struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance.

My observation at age 19, was that life was hard. I was trying to get my life on the upswing however, turning life from upside down to right side up can be a lot of work...(especially if you're not even sure which way is up). From wisdom of people much smarter than me, I learned that humans are all moving at different energetic speeds...and that difference of pace, can pave way for a lot of misunderstandings. On my crash coarse towards self-discovery and uncovering the perplexities of the ups and downs that life can bring, I found my world going in for another loop around the roller coaster...and I did not know how to get off the ride.

I had "stolen" a large, canvas painting from my dads house, one that I had painted. Without permission, and without him knowing, I brought it to my moms after finding it buried in the one place I had asked him NOT to put it. The garage. Apparently his new wife at the time didn't want it anywhere inside the house, much less a wall to be hung on. 

Two weeks later when my dad found it missing and demanded that I return it, I simply told him "no." This put him into a rage fairly quickly and a few minutes later, to my dismay, told me I was no longer his daughter.  In my defiance, I said "fine" and we hung up the phone. I thought I might never speak to him again. 

I knew that my "crime" didn't warrant the punishment I was receiving, but I certainly wasn't going to return my painting either. Not knowing how to repair the situation, I did what any normal human would do. Nothing. A year passed...and I never heard from him. 

No calls, no emails. 
Then finally, after almost two years of not speaking, I was done with this whole "pretend the other person doesn't exist" thing. I was simply the one who was going to have to make the move. More than that, I wanted to know that if he ever died, at least I had given it my all. 

My heart pounded when I drove to his house that day. I thought it might burst right out of my chest. I had so many scenarios playing out in my head I was shaking with fear. What will he do? Will he slam the door in my face? Will he still be so angry with me that he will hurt me? Should I just not do this at all? I thought to myself at least 30 times that I should just turn around and not go through with it...but I kept driving until my car landed in his driveway.

With shaking and sweaty hands, I walked all the way up to his door and knocked...but when the door opened, we were both met with surprise. My dad in shock, just stared at me for what seemed like an eternity--but in reality was only a few seconds. Then, to my astonishment, a smile crept onto his face and he opened his arms and he hugged me.

We made amends that day...never truly conceding to the other person in our dispute, but simply letting it become water under the bridge. Little did I know that my reason for continuing a relationship with my dad, was well-founded. I wasn't going to be able to have much more time with him. And even though our relationship floated on the surface of substance, a lesson I learned that day was that in the end, we will only ever regret a few things, such as the chances we didn't take, the choices we did or did not take action with, and the decisions that took us too long to carry out. 

And although good relationships take an equal amount of effort from both people, you can't expect a great result if you haven't made much of an effort yourself to begin with.

I had much still to learn about the magical healing power of perspective...but I had begun to learn about personal choice and effort. There was ample room for me to grow and strive towards becoming a better person. Truth is, I needed to be a better person, because I was over this whole "why does life hurt so much?" experience. The tears were simply becoming too painful. And if I had to struggle and fight the whole way, to fully release love and healing into my life....then....I was in....even if it killed me

And what I would soon learn is that when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Nine Lives - Part IV: Growing Pains

After barely making it out of my junior year of high school, I attended three different schools my senior year, the last semester being the foundation I needed to embark on a new journey.  I gained some weight back (mostly because I ate at McDonalds everyday trying to win the Monopoly game), made some new friends, joined the swim team and then graduated high school with a 3.75 GPA. 
Yay me!
As almost all of my friends were applying to colleges, I was fairly done with the whole school thing. This isn't to say that I don't highly value education, because I do...and I will talk about that more in later posts. So, with college not on my agenda, high school behind me and a whole world in front of me, I packed my bags and moved to Venezuela.

Now, if you're wondering why I chose a random country like Venezuela to be my home for my first year out of high school---you would be one of many. Here's the short version: I needed to speak Spanish. And I mean fluently. Over half of my family speaks Spanish--not English... and just because one has Hispanic ethnicity, doesn't mean that you automatically speak Spanish growing up in America. Outside of "buenos dias" "gracias" and the ABC's...I was far from fluent. And while I have hundreds of relatives living in Colombia, at the time, Colombia was considered to be the second most dangerous country to naturally, I chose Venezuela as the next best place!

Venezuela was new, thrilling and gorgeous. If you ever desire to effortlessly live in the present moment, go travel somewhere!! Seriously. It invigorates senses you might have not even known exist in you! 
Everywhere I went people seemed to be inherently giving and loving...and it began to show me another side to the human existence. When I would come across people who had close to nothing, it seemed as though it was their second nature to give me what little they had. This, I might add, is a very humbling experience...because turning down their gift of love would only offend them. 

I enrolled in a spanish class and began teaching English at an elementary school to make a little money. I travelled all over the country experiencing everything from the sand dunes of Coro, the beautiful mountains of Merida, Angel Falls in the jungles of Canaima, to exquisite beaches with warm, picture perfect Caribbean water; all the while making lifelong friendships that I maintain to this day. Life was definitely looking up...and I was capitalizing on every minute of it.

After a year of being single, I found myself a new latin boyfriend. I had taken a year off from the dating world--and time did me a lot of good. Dubious at first, I soon found myself in a relationship where I could simply be me. For the first time I experienced that it was possible to be loved and respected. This allowed me the freedom to love with a reckless abandon...become open and vulnerable...all the while discovering new and valuable things about myself. 

We dated for a year and a half--I moved back to the U.S. and it became apparent that neither of us wanted to permanently move to the other persons home country. He thought it best to end our relationship and I found myself again with a broken heart. 

Quite often an externally difficult situation will bestow the human spirit the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond oneself. You can triumph out of those experiences, turning life into an inner victory and personal success, or you can ignore the challenge and simply vegetate. I had vegetated intermittently throughout my life and this one wasn't to be the last of them. My heart hurt so bad I thought I might die. However, you don't die when you have a broken heart... You continue living, breathing and a state of numbness. The world just seems to keep on turning and you become a silent backdrop to life. Through the process of healing, this numbness can be a mandatory visitor as you make your way back into the land of the living. But I would recommend not to let this particular visitor stay for too long. It does not do one good to wallow in a state of misery and self pity. However that being said, I don't believe that you should deny yourself the reality of the situation either. Simply remember that you ALWAYS have a choice. A choice to live. A choice to forgive. A choice to let go. A choice to be grateful for the plethora of miracles that constantly emit light and love. 
If nothing more, keep in mind what the great German philosopher Nietzsche said, (also made popular by the talented Kelly Clarkson): "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker." What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
My cousin sent this picture to me yesterday and I thought it was perfectly symbolic for the subject of this post. Yes, it is a picture of poop with a morning glory rising out of it....the incredible reminder that out of the muck and mire rises glory and beauty. 

I was nineteen. The world was filled with pits of despair, cliffs of insanity, peaceful meadows, blissful mountain views and an ever blossoming perspective. What's more is as I gained perspective, I began to see that all of my stumbling was simply part of the intricate dance of life... 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nine Lives - Part III: High School Melodrama

high [adjective] to reach upward; elevated school [noun] an institution for instruction

High - School. Interesting name really. My experience was hardly "elevated" or "uplifted" and even though I got decent grades, my classes didn't instruct me on how to deal with life--or hurting, angry adults…much less insecure peers. I did my best trying to figure things out…wobbling and stumbling most of the way. 
People found entertaining ways to spread rumors about me...not that it was very difficult when my whole life seemed to be a public exhibit. Anyone who knew me in school could probably recall a time or two where something in my life was whisper-worthy. Yes, I was one of those people. The ones who you see crying, sitting in the middle of the school parking lot and think, "I wonder what their problem is? They are probably trying to get attention or something…" And that wouldn't be too far from the truth. I was dealing with more problems then I knew how to handle and I was looking for someone, anyone to hold my hand through it with me...

Soooo I began dating. What a great idea! Not that I consciously thought of it that way--but that's just what happened. Even when my mom told me I shouldn't, and my dad absolutely forbade it, (and would have killed me if he had known...) I jumped right in -- with my whole heart. And with my fairly unhealthy view of the male species, at sixteen, I ended up finding myself involved in a toxic, disastrous relationship. It was so much of a whirlwind, I didn't know which way was up and which way was down. My mom had gotten remarried, so she was fairly distracted when it came to noticing anything different about me. And if you were wondering where my dad was in all of this -- read Part II: The Readers Digest... 
The relationship I was in went from fun and happy to a tears and confusion all too quickly. I felt used, misled, broken hearted, and lost. "Coping" would hardly describe my state of being---I was in full blown survival mode. What is this love thing anyway? Is it supposed to hurt this much? What am I doing to cause all of this? Can't things just run smoothly for once?! Won't somebody please just love me?!

Then, somewhere near my seventeenth year of life, my mom found herself getting another divorce and I found myself pregnant. I was scared to death to tell anyone. Finally I managed up the courage to tell my mom. She didn't know what to do with-- or make of her troubled daughter. And I didn't blame her. I was sick, and felt like a complete disaster of a person. I had lost my appetite for food and life, and didn't care who thought what of me. Then, about a month or so later, I had a miscarriage. My mom couldn't have been more relieved--and deep down, past the heart was I. 

Weighing in at only a hundred pounds--I looked gauntly. I was half way through my senior year when I decided to move to a new school and come face to face with a major change yet again. What I hadn't realized yet was that change is the only constant thing in life. It paves the way for good to rise out of the bad. Change allows for us to learn from our mistakes and make new choices, as it also shapes our perspective. It was Viktor Frankl who said that, "when we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves….the last of human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Although I wasn't clear yet on how my choice would pan out, I was just beginning to discover that life is what you make it. A future was sitting right in front of me, and it was inevitable that I was moving forward. I had taken a step, my first step towards creating anew my destiny.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nine Lives - Part II: The Readers Digest

Let me tell you plainly that I was a happy child. Imagination was my good friend, and it ran free like wild horses. We lived in the mountains on an acre property with blue skies, trees and fresh air. It was wonderful. I would run around barefoot pretending to be a Native American and stay outside for hours playing by myself or with my little sister. When I was indoors, I would entertain myself in various ways through drawing, singing or putting on plays for anyone who would watch, including Barbie and Ken, I might add.  
My mom was an excellent mother and she always had our best interests in mind. My dad worked in L.A. and was gone most of the week, so during weekdays, things were pretty carefree around the house. He was very particular about things and enforced many rules at home that everyone was to abide by, including my mother. Unlike the average American family, we weren't allowed to watch TV or listen to popular music. It was out of the question to ever eat something like a donut or bacon. Spending the night at a friends house was O-U-T, and we could never leave toys out of our rooms or they would be thrown away. So when he came home from work, we made sure that everything was as perfect as possible. None of us wanted to upset him.

In third grade I was taken out of public school and my sister and I began homeschooling. This was a huge adjustment for me initially, but I adapted and although I missed my friends, I developed a huge passion for learning. On weekends, fights were frequent between my parents. During the bad ones, I would take my sister into the back of the house, huddle in the corner with her and ask God to stop the fighting. 
Then one day, when I was twelve and my sister was seven, my mom had simply had enough. I remember the morning she came in told us we were leaving as she packed our clothes. I started to cry and all I could think of was "What if daddy catches us? We will all be in big trouble." My mom knew this. She was scared too. Before I knew it, my parents were getting a divorce. I felt like the floor had been removed from underneath me, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. My sister and I went from having almost no contact with the outside world, to being thrust into a new school, in a busy new town, with two parents who were hurt and very angry with each other.

Adolescence is already hard enough for a "normal" person and I was a seventh grader who didn't know what any "popular" anything was. My first year interacting with peers was filled with embarrassing moments. I quickly began to learn about hard knocks, the pain of gossip and what it meant to "fit in." School however, was the least of my problems. 

As with many divorces, my life was split between parents half and half. On my dad's time I wasn't allowed to participate in sports or after school programs as he saw no use for them. Most coaches were not happy or understanding about having a player who showed up only fifty percent of the time. Besides being strict, he was exceptionally protective. On good days, we were usually kept locked indoors in the same room with him while he read The Readers Digest or the Bible, or we stayed locked outside in the backyard to do yard work. My sister and I did our best to be good daughters, and we didn't complain for fear of the consequences. Breakfast was my favorite time of the day with him because we would just sit there quietly, sipping coffee. 

With my mom no longer around to protect us from my dads temper tantrums, I did my best to shelter my sister from the brunt of it. My dad was angry that my mom had left him, and on the bad days, I spent countless hours fighting, crying, and being made to memorize letters that he had written for my mom. He wanted her to know what a terrible person she was for leaving him and he felt she would hear it better if it was coming from me. We "practiced" for hours each week. Of course when I went back to my moms I didn't have the heart to tell her all the things he wanted me to. It was hard enough hearing her sobs through the bedroom door on a regular basis. 

By age fifteen, I was running away from home. Literally. Running. The first time, I sprinted as fast as I could to my nearest friend about a mile away. My heart might have exploded right out of my chest, had she not been home. Soon after I began to slit my wrists with sharp objects. Then, with plenty of prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet it all seemed so easy really. I thought I would just pop a handful of Codine and drift off to sleep. 
I don't remember much of that evening, but I know that school counselors almost rushed me to the emergency room when my dad intercepted, and against everyone's better judgement, decided to take me home and pray for me. The prayers must have been pretty strong that evening because I made it through the night. With the amount of pills I had in me, it is a miracle that I lived through it. 

It is said that "A gem cannot be polished without much friction, nor man perfected without trials." This I know to be true. My early teen years had been nothing but friction, yet for a reason unbeknownst to me, I had been given another chance. I would soon learn that trials are a blessing in disguise and each day is a fresh start, filled with choices to be made. At sixteen I had been given a new opportunity for choosing life and there were many more lessons yet to learn... 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nine Lives - Part I: The First Wound

I have been asked many times why I am so happy all the time. Most people follow up that thought with "she must of had a pretty easy and wonderful life." Self confidence, I'm told, "oozes" out of me. Well folks, I'm here to tell you that I traveled down the long road to self confidence. My life has been a story of challenges, many mistakes and learning the "hard way." I've been poor--not knowing where my next meal would come from, a millionaire, crazy, sane, depressed, passionate, married, divorced, suicidal and inspired by life. In a very real sense, I have lived nine lives. Life for me has been anything but "easy" --that is until I discovered how to create a life that is truly wonderful. How did I solve this conundrum you ask? As I'm sure you know, perspective is everything, so before I tell you how I discovered self love, acceptance and forgiveness, I will tell you a more personal story by rewinding briefly back to my childhood, where I initially discovered tears, self doubt, and fear. 

As a six year old, I didn't know any better when I gave my friend a ticket to the school play. I had three tickets and she didn't have any, so it only made sense to give her one. When I got home from school that day, my mother asked in a stern voice, where the other ticket was. For some reason my response was "It must of gotten lost" to then "Maybe Nicki stole it." My mother's tone was a clear indicator that I was in trouble for giving the ticket away, and I thought that just maybe I wouldn't be in as much trouble if I said that she had taken it. So I stuck with my story. The truth came out as it always does, and worse than giving away the ticket, I had told a lie.
Now, dishonesty is something to be addressed, especially at a young age, as it has a plethora of negative consequences. I might have done very well as a six year old had this been explained to me with words. However, that was not how I learned about honesty. As soon as my dad found out that I had told a lie, he decided to beat the truth into me. My mom stood there frozen as she watched it all unfold. At the end of this event and to make his final point, he put his hands around my neck and squeezed as he shook me yelling, "You will never tell a lie again, do you understand me?" 

Oh, I understood alright. I understood that I must be a terrible person to deserve such punishment, I must not be worthy of love, and I definitely understood that I was scared to death of my dad. From that point forward I was always careful around him. The sad truth was that although I had learned about the consequences of telling a falsity, I had begun to believe a bigger lie-- a lie about myself: that I needed to earn love by being perfect and that my life was not as valuable as the people around me. 
The insecurity of not being good enough, would fester through my teens and into early adulthood. Of course, pleasing everybody is impossible, and trying to do so, put me on a collision course with pain and disappointment.
But before I could learn to defeat this insecurity and turn "wounds into wisdom", there were more wounds yet to be had....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Road-Less Battle

Is it really morning? Wow, that seemed fast. My eyes ache as I force them open. The clock says 6:35 a.m. I'm exhausted and I don't FEEL like getting up. I would love to just let my eyes rest for another...hour... or two. 
Then the self talk begins. " love waking up early" and "What about your commitment to go running every morning before breakfast?" Mmmmm. Breakfast. My stomach starts to growl.
The battle of 'will vs. body' has begun. The wisdom of the ages starts echoing in my ears. "First we make choices. Then our choices make us." How many times have I let my body "win" as an excuse because I was "too tired, too hungry, too busy etc?"
Not today sister. Today is a NEW day. A fresh start. Each decision  that comes my way is my choice. Last month I succeeded in getting up early everyday. I nourished my body with clean, healthy foods. I have health goals to become the best me possible... And now, because my eyes hurt I am going to allow a little tiredness to break the streak?
Just then my body pipes up again and whimpers "but think about it need your rest and it's so comfortable in here...and you've been running around all week at the inaugural Utah Comicon. You had a 13 hour drive back to LA yesterday!! You deserve it."
Agh! Hush!!
"My will is stronger than my body. My will is stronger than my body. My will is stronger than my body!" I repeat out loud. Man, if someone was watching this self talk, they might just think I was crazy! 
Maybe I am crazy.
I remind myself of the greater goal that I am working towards. What am I choosing? Weakness or greatness? Greatness does not care whether I am tired, hungry, male or female, what race I am, what religion I claim, or if I ever achieve it for that matter. The ONLY thing that matters right now is having the faith that it will happen, and the commitment of following through. Even when the feeling that I initially had when I made the commitment is gone...(and let me tell you, at this very moment.... it's gone!)
My inner, deeper, and higher thought continues...Be willing to be uncomfortable, and the payoff is greater than the price paid up front. I glance at my phone and the quote of the day is from Blaise Pascal which says "Mans greatness lies in the power of his thought."
OKAY! I AM COMMITTED!! Go figure that would be the quote of the day! Thanks Blaise. :)
And with that my legs swing out of bed. I did it. I put on my tennies and put my hair in a pony tail. I step outside and breathe in the fresh, morning air.
It's invigorating.
To achieve greatness, one must push through. Never quit. Or... like Dori from Finding Nemo puts it-- "just keep swimming...just keep swimming..." I place one foot in front of the other and am reminded again that if it is meant to be, it's up to me and my committed action.
Bring it on world cause here I come!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect?

It's been a while, I know. Life is an ever flow of events and I sometimes find myself caught up in the excitement of it all. Needless to say, (by the lack of my posts) blogging has been about the last thing on my mind lately. Imagine my surprise then, as I was in the middle of enjoying my breakfast, an interesting thought popped into my brain, and my laptop chirped at me simultaneously, as if telling me I had to blog about it. So here I am--about to reveal some of the ever flowing thoughts that rattle around in my brain!
The question of the morning is: If practice makes perfect, or at the very least makes one better, does this apply to everything we do? Let's see, what are some of the "practices" we as humans do on a regular basis? Hmmm. Breathing, eating, sleeping, thinking, talking...? These activities maybe aren't viewed as "practice" because it has nothing to do with playing a sport or musical instrument, but, isn't anything we do regularly a form of practice?
The questions begin to snowball...
If thinking is practicing, what reoccuring thoughts are happening in my brain? Am I thinking positively or negatively? 
My heartbeat picks up pace as if I were a convict getting ready to be sentenced. Oh, I know I have lots of thoughts that are happy, upbeat and filled with life, but what about those negative, pesky and downright ugly thoughts like, not being in better shape or not having enough money? When those thoughts occur more than ONE time, (and I definitely plead guilty on this) --then it is ultimately something that I am practicing.
What am I talking most about? Lack? Or Abundance? Am I talking about how happy and grateful I am to have water and food to eat daily? Over 75% of the world does NOT have that privilege.
Or am I talking about what I don't have, repeating a negative story I heard on the news, or gossping? Am I living in love or in fear? Which one am I ultimately practicing more and getting stronger at?
I find all of these questions to be very sobering, if I take a good honest look at myself. Am I subject to having these thoughts control my life? Hell no!

The good news is, I remind myself, we have a choice in the matter. Always. A choice to become aware of what is happening in our brains, and to actively replace bad thoughts with good ones. Comforting isn't it? Kind of like this hot cup of joe. 
The more we practice awareness, the stronger we will become. And the stronger we become, the closer we are to that gold medal of abundance. That my friend, is something amazing to think about!
Now, back to my coffee...